Newsflash: Theater is Alive and Well in Los Angeles (Evidence Within)

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The Invertigo Dance Theatre dancers in motion. Photo: Joe Lambie.

Los Angeles theater is afire here in the scorching dog days of October and I have been honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity to see a few shows in the last couple weeks and so for all youze “where is all this theater they keep talking about?” crowd out there, here’s what the fricassee we’re talking about right cheer…

Carrie The Musical: The reason to go: The mise en scene, very detailed, minimal and creepy, every room, every nook and cranny, its own little world, messages written in blood on the mirrors (yes that was me that almost walked into the women’s restroom), toppled furniture in the corners; add to that some spectacular voices (a bit over mic-ed for my tastes) and of course the story of Carrie which we all know and love and dread, simultaneously. The problems: The music was eh and it’s a story we all know and love and dread simultaneously so why oh why stretch every little bit of it out and ring it dry for another song when we just want to get to the good stuff.  That’s why the movie worked for all its melodrama! It was like a prolonged joke in which you know the punch line but the comic refuses to deliver it. Plus, tonally, the thing is all over the place. All in all though, a pretty cool event in an extraordinarily beautiful downtown theater (The Los Angles Theater), and a show that has one or two “wow” moments that will truly catch you by surprise. Just wish that music was better. Grumble grumble mutter mumble…

Reeling: Kinda stumbled upon these guys last year, Invertigo Dance Theatre, with After It Happened and that show was pretty damn good and so their latest, Reeling, well, when it’s rockin’ it’s rollin’, but when it’s reelin’, it reeled a bit, like a lolling ship, adrift. Fortunately there are a couple of stunning numbers that more than make the trip worthwhile and the future is bright for this young company. Kind of missed the live accompaniment this time around like they had in After It Happened, but there’s enough here to keep your heart pumpin’ and your eyes poppin’ even when you’re just floatin’. They are on a California tour and opening next in San Diego this weekend.

The Best of Enemies: One of those cases when the story is so much better than the play. The two leads, Larry Cedar and Tiffany Rebecca Royale are excellent, but Mark St. Germain just seemed unable to find any poetry in a story clearly rich with it. After the opening moments everything seemed to just kinda drift. Plus, the languid pacing by Director David Rose just left too much time for me to think about Googling the real CP Ellis and Ann Atwater on my cellphone while we sashayed over to the next scene. Which I did after the show was over. Googled. An utterly unbelievable story of courage and conviction. Too bad we didn’t see that to its fullest on the stage. But maybe it’s one of those stories that can never truly captured by art. Like the best parts of life. Indescribable.

American Falls: An intriguing piece of theater that halfway left me wondering why the hell the writer decided to tell the story in this fragmented way when it seemed so unnecessary? It read a bit like a writing prompt gone awry. But there is authentic emotion here and most of the cast brings the goods, thanks to the always ethereal hand of Chris Fields. An Echo Theatre production still playing I believe over at the Atwater Village Theatre, a place that was hoppin’ the night i attended.

Shakespeare’s Last Night Out: Michael Shaw Fisher gettin’ it done. Top of the Fringe winner for 2015, it’s a well told, deeply felt night of story and song. Get thee to a Three Clubs!

Urban Death: Tour of Terror: Their latest performance art horror maze is as good as if not better than ever. Plays at ZJU through October.

The Princes of Kings Road: This has closed and the good news is that Ray Xifo and John Nielsen were a tender duet, and even better, this site specific show sold out every night of its run for EST/LA according to the producers – well done – but ultimately, the play never really started or went anywhere for me. It did make me look into the two LA architects, so that’s always good, but as a story, first and foremost, a play must always be escalating, and this particular piece was a classic example of not doing that, fits and starts and leaps and bounds and stumbles and plateaus with no real forward motion or any real purpose except to create an un-earned reconciliation between these two real life characters. Thank God for the two masterful actors, but the nurse? Why? What’s the point except to give them a reason to talk to someone? I just… Kudos to EST for producing the crap outta this sucker.

Okay that’s all I got for now. Sorry for the short shrift folks but I do what I can and what I can’t I don’t do plus Marge is calling from the other office telling me my 10pm is early so I gotta go run now and you should go see some theater!